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Running Back Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 5

Some of you have been receiving outstanding results from the running backs that you selected during your draft process. Unfortunately, many of you have endured injuries, disappointing output, and inconsistent patterns of usage with your runners. If that applies to you, then those unwanted outcomes have diminished your enthusiasm for some of the backs that are contained on your rosters.

In addition to the presence of health issues and lackluster production, the reemergence of bye weeks will also fuel your desire to locate alternative options on the waiver wire. This week the Lions and Dolphins are involved. That will require anyone who owns Kerryon Johnson or Kenyan Drake, or the 16% who own Kalen Ballage to jettison these backs to your benches.

Regardless of your reasons for examining waiver wire options, this article will help you locate the best running backs to target. These recommendations will appear in three tiers - beginning with the most enticing and progressing to runners that are available if you are contending with desperation. You will also find a group of backs that can be considered as droppable in order for you to secure your replacements.

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Frontrunners - Week 5 Waiver Wire Running Backs

These backs should be your top priorities among the runners that are available on most waiver wires. Some will be more beneficial in PPR formats than standard. All players have 60% or less ownership in typical fantasy leagues. 

Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 43% owned

It is understandable if you are skeptical about the prospects of relying on Jones as a dependable starter. His 2018 rookie season was disastrous, and the encouraging production that he delivered in Week 1 (75 rushing yards/5.77 yards-per-carry) was followed by a grand total of nine yards in Week 2. But the collection of discouraging results has transformed into 150 rushing yards on 33 attempts in Weeks 3 and 4, including a career-high 19 carries against the Rams in Week 4. The touch distribution between Jones, Peyton Barber, and Dare Ogunbowale could still shift unexpectedly. However, Barber has been consistently unimpressive (45.5 yards-per-game), while Jones’ statistical surge should compel Bruce Arians to continue deploying him in an expanded role. Jones appears ready to finally function as a viable resource and has ascended into this week’s top waiver wire option.

Jordan Howard, Philadelphia Eagles - 55% owned

It is important to clarify that the addition of Howard should not be made with the belief that his output in Week 4 (115 total yards/3 touchdowns) can be replicated on a frequent basis. He had averaged nine touches per game in Weeks 1-3 before collecting 18 against Green Bay in Week 4. However, the number of rushing attempts that he has been entrusted with has steadily increased with each matchup (6/8/11/15), and he has averaged 4.7 yards-per-carry. Miles Sanders should continue splitting touches with Howard while functioning with the largest workload during  Philadelphia’s matchups. But Howard should procure enough touches to present owners with a functional flex option, and he delivers the potential for highly productive outings as the season advances.

Frank Gore, Buffalo Bills - 56% owned

Gore’s ownership percentage gradually progresses upward on a weekly basis. However, the rise has been vastly different from most runners that have been presented with an opportunity to perform as their team's lead back. The 36-year old is not producing astronomical numbers. But he is outperforming a number of younger backs who might initially appear more enticing on the waiver wire. Gore has now amassed 273 yards on the ground with his 61 attempts while generating three touchdowns from Weeks 1-3. He also assembled his first 100-yard game since October 2018, by accruing 109 yards on 17 carries in Week 4. Gore has also paced the Bills' backfield in snaps, with a count that has escalated throughout Buffalo's four matchups. Devin Singletary will eventually resurface, which will shift both runners into a timeshare. But that should not deter you from adding Gore if you are in need of dependable production from your flex position.


In The Running - Week 5 Waiver Wire Running Backs

These backs remain widely available on the waiver wire but are not necessarily must-adds.

Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings - 24% owned

Mattison’s presence among the weekly recommendations continues, as his ownership percentage has remained stagnant since Week 1.  Dalvin Cook has already rushed for 410 yards and should stockpile sizable yardage totals during most of his upcoming matchups. He will also continue to operate with one of the league’s most extensive workloads (21.5 attempts per game). But Mattison is still collecting seven touches-per-game while performing proficiently with his opportunities (5.3 yards-per-carry). His current touch totals do not constitute standalone value. However, his numbers would increase substantially if Cook is forced to the sideline. Cook owners should seize Mattison in order to avoid any possibility of a catastrophic situation. But their current lack of urgency to attain protection from a prolonged Cook absence creates an opportunity for the remaining owners in over 75% of all leagues.

Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks - 59% owned

One of the more shocking discoveries when perusing the latest ownership percentages was Penny's availability in over 40% of all leagues. The second-year back’s hamstring issue has sidelined him for Seattle’s last two matchups. However, extracting him from rosters completely was premature - with the exception of anyone who was facing an immediate crisis. He will ascend beyond C.J. Prosise on the depth chart upon his return and presents owners with RB3 value when that transpires. Chris Carson will still operate as the Seahawks’ lead back. But any reoccurrence of Carson’s recent fumbling issues would create a clear route for Penny to absorb a sizable workload. It is always wise to prepare yourself for the unexpected when you are involved in the ownership of any back under Pete Carroll's supervision. But that should not convince you to ignore Penny's potential to bolster your weekly scoring during the year.

Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens - 10% owned

If you are among the owners who have benefited from Mark Ingram's 390 total yards after four contests, then you should embrace the opportunity to keep him in your lineups until his Week 8 bye. However, if he encounters a health issue, and you do not have Edwards secured on your rosters then your situation will be radically altered. The second-year back has seized the vast majority of opportunities when Ingram leaves the field. Edwards has accumulated 148 rushing yards with his 33 attempts (4.4 yards-per-carry), while Justice Hill has been an afterthought. Hill has collected just seven touches since Week 1 while being relegated him to the threshold of non-existence within Baltimore's in-game strategy, Edwards is the preferred handcuff option for Ingram owners, and remains available in 90% of all leagues. This creates a viable stash possibility for all other owners, due to the potential for a sizable role if Ingram is sidelined.


Dark Horses - Week 5 Waiver Wire Running Backs 

This group consists of running backs that can be added if you are willing to wait for the possibility of a larger role during the year, or consider your situation to be desperate due to injuries or byes.

Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys - 27% owned 

A cluster of health issues that surfaced following last Friday’s practices served as a reminder that the status of players you are depending on can suddenly change. That fact should resonate with owners of Ezekiel Elliott, while he continues to function with massive workloads as the Cowboys' lead back. Elliott's role is cemented unless he is forced to the sideline. That would instantly vault Pollard into high-end RB2 status, while his potential to generate big plays could enable him to deliver RB1 production. He has accumulated 149 yards on 30 carries, including his 103-yard performance in Week 3. This is not a suggestion that Pollard provides standalone value. But the rookie can explode for significant yardage if he is functioning as the Cowboys' primary back. This should persuade Elliott owners to prioritize Pollard highly among this week's roster additions, in order to elude any risk of encountering a massive dilemma during the season.

Jonathan Hilliman, NY Giants - 0% owned

The 6’0”, 220-pound Hillman was promoted from the practice squad after Saquon Barkley experienced his high ankle sprain. He is now functioning as Wayne Gallman’s backup, as the tandem shares the touches until Barkley resurfaces in New York’s lineup. Even though Gallman capitalized on his 24 touches by accumulating 95 total yards and two touchdowns in Week 4, Hilliman was entrusted with 10 carries during his debut. The undrafted free agent supplied a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash during his Pro Day and delivered promising production during the preseason (80 rushing yards). He will continue to operate behind Gallman on the depth chart, but the usage that he attained in Week 4 was encouraging. Multiple factors could emerge that elevate him into a sizable role. That should compel owners in deeper leagues to seize him this week. All other owners should stash him if roster space is available.

Ryquell Armstead, Jacksonville Jaguars - 1% owned 

The 5’11” 220-pound rookie does not offer the standalone value that some backs on this week's waiver wire can deliver, because Leonard Fournette normally commandeers a monstrous workload. But Armstead operates as the clear backup to Fournette, with an uncontested path to a massive touch total if Fournette is sidelined for any reason. That includes any in-game situation in which Fournette requires rest. This occurred in Week 4, as Armstead accumulated nine touches and averaged 5.2 yards-per-carry. The rookie possesses a blend of decisiveness and aggressiveness, and also collected a 7-yard touchdown reception in Week 4. Fournette owners should be highly motivated by the opportunity to seize Armstead, in order to safeguard their roster's scoring potential if Fournette is suddenly unavailable. Armstead presents the potential to be a difference-maker for all other owners if Fournette is absent.


Also-Rans - Time To Say Goodbye

These backs can be dropped in order to secure an RB with greater potential to bolster your scoring during the year.

Latavius Murray, New Orleans Saints - 58% owned

One week ago, the sixth-year back's ownership percentage was 72%. But that number will continue to drop as Murray’s workload fails to reach the original projections of many within the fantasy community. Murray assembled 47 total yards with his eight touches in Week 1, But he has only accumulated 45 total yards on 13 touches during his last three games combined. Alvin Kamara has dominated the workload within the New Orleans backfield, rushing 59 times and averaging 20 touches-per-game during the four-game span. Even with the advent of bye weeks, his minuscule usage presents significant risk with including him in your starting lineup. This provided Murray's owners with justification to remove him from their rosters, as there are more favorable options that are available.

Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns - 46% owned

If you have been steadfast in keeping Hunt on your roster then you have successfully navigated through four weeks with a player that absolutely cannot help your scoring. That may reinforce your belief that it will be worthwhile to keep him cemented to your bench until his return. But this is a reminder that you still are not halfway through the protracted period of time before he can resurface. Hunt cannot enter the field until Week 10 and Nick Chubb’s explosion in Week 4 (185 total yards), increases the possibility that Freddie Kitchens will relegate Hunt to a minor role when he is available. Owners in deeper leagues have the luxury of retaining Hunt for the duration of his absence. But it is important to maximize your chances of winning every week. If your team is struggling, it is wise to fortify your roster with a player that can assist you now.     

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